Chiltern League XC #2 - Teardrop Lakes

A crisp, cloudy day in London gradually eased as we headed up the M1 towards Milton Keynes and glimpses of blue sky started appearing. A sea of Cross Country runners, supporters and others clearly dragged along, greeted us as we walked across from the MK Bowl parking lot to Teardrop Lakes.

A manmade park, it's almost as though the landscape gardeners who designed the parks of Milton Keynes back in the 1960's, knew that hundreds of runners would need some muddy hills to test themselves on in the future. And if hoping to leave a devilish legacy, they did extremely well...

The course starts with a gentle flat, snaking back and forth before hitting the kind of hill that children on 'snow-days' flock to and don't leave all day. It's short, sharp and if you don't choose your path correctly you can easily lose a shoe in the mud, or slip backward and end up doing it all again.

Once at the top, it's a quick gasp for breath before a descent to match the climb - some try to slow, some let it all go - but everyone flies down and around a corner leading back towards the start line. A welcome flat straight heads back past the main field and a lot of support and cheering before easing around one of the lakes and out the other side.

The 'small' lap turns just after this, and comes back around to the start. The 'big' lap carries on out and weaves through fields, trees and narrow paths before meeting the other manmade wonder, fondly known as The Beast. This beautiful atrocity must've really set the creators off in hysterics, it's possibly a touch less steep than the first, but double the length. And for fun, an official race photographer is perched atop, capturing the kind of shots that could get you a divorce if posted on social media.

As before, the almost immediate downhill is steep and manic (running like Phoebe from Friends is a necessity), before winding back towards the start line via a picturesque woodland path that almost makes it all worth it.

The finish holds more cross country wonders - mud, a sharp turn, everyone you know watching, and more mud - before filing down the finish tunnel and congratulating anyone who makes eye contact and trying not the pass out from the sprint finish.

The distances vary across the age and gender groups:

- Senior Men's - 9.6km (1 small lap, 2 big lap)

- Senior Ladies & U17 Men - 5.9km (1 small, 1 big lap)

- U15 Boys - 4.4km (2 small laps)

All in all, it's a fun event and great to be able to line up with pro athletes (Andy Vernon came 3rd in the Men's!) and run the same course, while also competing with runners of similar abilities - a pretty unique experience and luckily the mud appears to wash off.. eventually.

Many thanks to everyone who helped and cheered on the day - Bill for all the organisation, pins and bringing the flag, and Sophie for bringing the gazebo! Plus a huge shout out to all that ran, first timers for braving it and old timers for coming back!

Photos of the day can be found HERE

Nathan Barnard sprinting to the finish line